Page images

to Menes, he makes the kingdom of the Nekuas— usually interpreted Manes, or spirits of dead men (he has another interpretation, which I do not comprehend) — of five thousand six hundred and thirteen years, and then the period of Ma,purely mythological, of thirty-one hundred and forty years: this brings us to the epoch, the " commencement of the period of Ma, B. C. 14,606." This is historical, and the date is verified by astronomy!

His process is short and easy. He says Claudius Ptolemy, the great Grecian astronomer, employed, in his tables, a cycle of fourteen hundred and seventy-five years. Then, starting at the year A. D. 139, — the end of the Sothic period of fourteen hundred and sixty years, which terminated next after the Christian era, — he reckons back by periods of fourteen hundred and seventy-five yearB — ten such steps bringing him to B. C. 14,611; and as this date differs only five years from 14,606, to which he had arrived historically, the difference of Jive years, as he says, being easily accounted for by the loss of fractions of years in the reckoning of Manetho. And this he calls demonstrating the "precision" of the date B. C. 14,611 by astronomy.

In order to put this matter in its true light, it is scarcely necessary to remark, that there is hardly a datum involved which is reliable. Take the historical part. It is true that a Sothic period, according to Censorinus, terminated A. D. 139. But the Sothic cycle was a period of fourteen hundred and sixty *

*' i. e., fourteen hundred and sixty solar years, and fourteen hundred and sixty-one Egyptian or vague years.


years; and on what authority does the writer make this the starting-point for a reckoning with another cycle of fourteen hundred and seventy-five years, if there he such a cycle? And then, again, what becomes of his reckoning, when it is regarded as demonstrable, that the thirty dynasties of Manetho were not all consecutive— that part of them were contemporaneous? by which fact the duration of the Egyptian empire, from Menes to Alexander, is curtailed from two to three thousand years. He had the works of Bunsen, Lepsius, Poole, and Wilkinson, etc., before him, — or ought to have had, — in which the various versions of Manetho are given; but, as far as I am aware, he has not even hinted that different results had been arrived at by those scholars and others. Whereas, in point of fact, there are equally authentic numbers, both historical and mythological, which, if employed, would have varied that date several hundreds, or even thousands, of years; so that, instead of a coincidence between the historical and astronomical numbers within the limits of Jive years, there might have been made a discrepancy of some two or three thousand. But the point of his argument all turns on this coincidence within Jive years.

But the astronomy of Rodier is worse than his history. He says that Claudius Ptolemy made use, in his tables, of a cycle of fourteen hundred and seventy-five years, referring to Syncellus (p. 52) for authority. But his authority does not sustain the assertion. Ptolemy made use of no such cycle; at least, the passage referred to does not prove that he did. But supposing he did, how does that authorize him (Rodicr) to take that number, and by it ascend into antiquity, and verify a date fifteen thousand years before? Even if the number were legitimate or true, it could not be available for such a use. Such an application of it is unscientific and absurd. The absurdity may be well illustrated by a reference to the Julian period. The Julian period is formed by multiplying together the numbers of the solar cycle, lunar cycle, and cycle of indiction, i. e., 28 X 19 X 15. The product of these numbers is 7980. This period began B. C. 4713; i. e., the commencements of these three cycles coincide that year, as is found by reckoning backward from any point of time when the cycles were in use in the Roman empire. Now, supposing any one should attempt to maintain from this that the Roman state was in being, and the particular civil matters connected with the cycle of indiction were in vogue, B. C. 4713, his argument would be parallel to that of our French savant in the premises before us. I ask, in all soberness, is any language of denunciation too severe properly to characterize such a work? If there is in the whole compass of scientific literature a more inconclusive argument, a more irrational or uncritical process, than that of our author in his astronomical verification, as he terms it, of the date B. C. 14,611, it has not come under my notice.

Others of Rodier's dates, of a high antiquity, are open to the same criticism that I have bestowed on the few above mentioned.

T>. Page 68.

Thk following is the account of Manetho, as given by
Syncellus: —

"It remains, therefore, to make certain extracts concerning the dynasties of the Egyptians from the writings of Manetho the Sebennyte, the high priest of the idolatrous temples of Egypt in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus. These, according to his own account, he copied from the inscriptions which were engraved in the sacred dialect and hieroglyphic characters upon the columns set up in the Seriadic land by Thoth, the first Hermes; and, after the deluge, translated from the sacred dialect, into the Greek* tongue, in hieroglyphic characters; and committed to writing in books, and deposited by Agathodsemon, the son of the second Hermes, the father of Tat, in the penetralia of the temples of Egypt. He has addressed and explained them to Philadelphus, the second king Ptolemy, in the book entitled Sothis, as follows : —

"'The Epistle of Manetho, the Sebennyte, to Ptolemy Philadelphus. To the great and august king Ptolemy Philadelphus, Manetho, the high priest and scribe of the sacred adyta, being by birth a Sebennyte, and citizen of Heliopolis, to his sovereign, Ptolemy, greeting: —

"* It is right for us, most mighty king, to pay due attention to all things which it is your pleasure we should take into con6ideration. In answer, therefore, to your inquiries concerning the things that shall take place in the world, I shall, according to your commands, lay before you what I have gathered from the sacred books written by Hermes Trismegistus, our forefather. Farewell, my prince and sovereign.'" *

* Syncellus, Chron. p. 40.

[ocr errors]

Syncellus then, after the letter, thus proceeds : —

"He says these things respecting the interpretation of the books of the second Hermes; he afterwards gives a narrative concerning the five Egyptian nations, called with them gods, demigods, manes, and mortals, of whom Eusebius, alluding to them in his chronological writings, thus speaks: 'The Egyptians have strung together many trifling legends respecting gods and demigods, and with them manes (tinvAr), and other mortal kings. For the most ancient among them reckoned by lunar years of thirty days each, but those who came after called the horas (raimi'f), periods of three months, years.'"

It should be remarked that this letter to Ptolemy Philadelphus (with the work spoken of by Syncellus, lilfiios rjjs Sddf us) is pronounced by many * a forgery executed by some Jewish or Christian writer subsequent to the Christian era. This opinion, however, or charge of forgery, I can not think to be well sustained.

* Kenrick (Anc. Eg., vol. ii. p. 72) says the Book of Sothis "is proved to be spurious by the epithet 2ef>aarii(, which the introductory epistle gives to Ptolemy, the translation of Augustus, and never found among the titles of the Ptolemies." And the writer of the article Manetho, in Smith's Dictionary, is equally positive that the letter and Book of Sothis are forgeries; and he mentions the occurrence of the epithet Sebustos as the principal reason for regarding them as the work of a pseudo Manetho.

Though the epithet may not have been used as an official title given to, or assumed by, the Ptolemies, may it not have been applied occasionally to those sovereigns, e. g., Philadeiphus? I have not yet seen satisfactory evidence that the letter above quoted and the Book of Sothis, spoken of by Syncellus, were not from the pen of the true Manetho, the great Egyptian historian.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »